This summer we completed a Canadian Rockies road trip in an electric car. It was, without doubt, one of the best driving experiences of our lives! We saw some of the most incredible scenery British Columbia (BC) and Alberta (AB) have to offer, driving along scenic highways as well as mountain passes, stopping in at iconic towns and cities. In this article we share our route, some info about the car we used, some highlights of our trip, and some tips on long drives with an EV. We made a short video that you can see by scrolling down to the bottom of the page.
The route for our Canadian Rockies road trip
The initial planned route was about 2200km, however we actually completed just over 2600km due to little deviations and detours along our route. We aimed to drive for about a maximum of 4 hours a day, and to complete each day on a single charge of the car. This was easily achievable due to the presence of fast-charging stations at along the daily route or every place we stopped at (except Lake Louise – sort it out Lake Louise!).
Electricity along the route
Electricity in BC is mainly supplied by hydroelectric generation facilities, with some wind farms and minimal gas plants. In AB there’s a lot of coal, gas and some wind. The graphic here (from the Canadian Energy Regulator) shows that the area we drove in (red polygon) is powered mainly by hydroelectric, so has very low CO2 emissions (see some stats here to show how other areas in Canada and the world). This means that the electricity we used to charge our car on our Canadian Rockies road trip was very low carbon intensity. This was a road trip with zero emissions at the point of use, and very low emissions at the point of generation! Super stuff.
The Hyundai Kona EV
We’re members of the Vancouver car sharing co-op Modo, and have access to hundreds of relatively new and different vehicles around Vancouver, including five fully electric Konas. Yes we’re motivated to use the Kona partly by the lack of tailpipe emissions and BC’s low-emission hydro electricity, but also the Kona is a really fun and responsive car to drive! Its acceleration and braking are superb, the steering is tight and sharp, and the driving aids are sometimes useful if not an entertaining glimpse of the automated driving future. We’re big fans and book them out for almost every trip we take around Vancouver. We knew this was the only car we wanted to use for our Canadian Rockies road trip. If you’re more interested in the car, you can see our review of the Kona EV here.
If you’re a BC local interested to try out Modo, please consider signing up with our Modo referral code REF28KSS0GB Get to Modo here.
We mentioned above that the emissions are very low, but how low is very low? Let’s review the CO2 emissions for the Kona EV with a comparable petrol car.
The Kona EV averaged 7.0km per kWh over our trip. That’s actually lower than the Kona’s rated performance, so we must have been driving at a fairly optimal speed, or the trip computer calcs are slightly off. I’m going to presume we drove optimally!
7.0 km per kWh is the same as 14.3 kWh per 100 km, or 372 kWh for the 2600km trip.
Noting that BCHydro states its average CO2 intensity is 11 tonnes per GWh, which is 11 g per kWh, we used electricity that corresponds to around 4kg of CO2 emissions.
The petrol Kona achieves fuel consumption of about 7 L per 100km at best. I’m being generous here, as with all the hills and no regenerative braking, the consumption would be higher. But let’s use 7L per 100km. Over our 2600km trip, that’s 182 L of petrol.
Assuming 2.4 kg CO2 per L fuel, the petrol Kona would have produced about 440 kg of CO2 over our trip. Most of this is from combustion of the fuel in the engine, but a small amount (4%) is attributable to the embedded CO2 from production of the petrol.
Yikes, 4kg of Co2 vs 440 kg of CO2 – that’s over 100 times more! The total emissions of CO2 from the petrol Kona would have been at at least 110 times higher than the Kona EV.
There’s 2 main reasons for this, hidden in the numbers above:
- Electric cars are more efficient and use less ‘fuel’. On our trip the Kona EV used about 1.6 L petrol equivalent per 100km vs a petrol Kona which uses at best 7.0 L per 100km.
- The ‘fuel’ for EVs is less carbon intensive. It’s greener to produce electricity from hydro and use that to drive electric motors, than it is to obtain, refine and combust petrol in a petrol drivetrain. 0.16 kg CO2 per 100km fuel (electricity) for the Kona EV, and 16.2 kg CO2 per 100km of fuel for the Kona petrol.
Yes, this doesn’t consider the emissions from the production of the vehicle, but in most scenarios, the emissions during the lifetime use of the vehicle far exceeds the emissions due to production. This is especially the case in an area with such green electricity as BC.
Highlights on our route
Here are a few of the highlights and some brief notes from the places we visited on our Canadian Rockies road trip.
We stopped briefly in Hope on the way out of Vancouver and back into Vancouver, both times to get takeout dinner at the Sakoon Indian restaurant and take in the river views. Very pleasant!
We were only in Merrit for the motel and didn’t hang around in the daylight. Good selection of fast chargers, but you did have to pay for them. Cheaper than petrol, but a bit unexpected seeing as all the chargers I’d previously encountered in Vancouver were free.
A smaller slightly artsier cousin of Kelowna, though still has the vibe of a drive-through town. We enjoyed the mural walk, following the different locations with through some online guidance, as well as the Thai restaurant Amarin, and the coffee shop Ratio.
Check out the downtown beach areas. We had lunch at Naked Cafe and were pleased to find seitan and a tasty berry tea on the menu. The most interesting part for us was the trestle bridges at Myra Canyon which we cycled along.
A quaint and quiet gem. We didn’t research Shuswap in advance and were delighted to stop in for a few hours and wander around town on a sunny day, checking out the bird reserve, the jetty, and some art classes in the park. Great lunch was had at the Smash Whole Food Noshery.
Legendary winter resort, didn’t disappoint in the Summer. The Pipe Mountain Coaster was surprisingly exciting and fast, and definitely worth your time and dollars if you’re passing through. Some of the trails on Mt Revelstoke were shut due to COVID, but we still had a great few hours wandering around the summit. Don’t forget the bear spray, there were lots of daily sightings!
We were passing through and felt like a no-mans-land between larger shouldering resorts and towns. We think there’s some great paragliding to be done here, mountain biking and hiking, but we didn’t have time to stop for more than a simple hotel stay, as we were en route to Lake Louise. Based on chats with the hotel manager, our experience was quite indicative.
Lake Louise & Bow Hut hike
Incredible lakes, hikes, glaciers, views. Even with international tourism non-existent, Lake Louise and its surrounding lakes were still very busy! Banff and Beyond do a great job of summarising what’s in the area. Beautiful but surprisingly quick hike up to the 6 glaciers teahouse. Took a swim in some of the smaller lakes above Lake Louise on the way down. Very refreshing!
Lake Louise acted as the base for our Alpine Club glacier tour experience, which we highly recommend for those who don’t have the experience, skills, or equipment, to safely traverse glaciers on their own.
We also caught Takakkaw Falls around 18:00 at the golden hour, which was magnificent!
Downtown Banff was as interesting as any other small town tourist-heavy destination in Canada. Bits of it reminded me of Gastown in Vancouver, in terms of the types of shops. But there are pleasant walks around the town along the river, as well as interesting local museums such as the Whyte and Buffalo Nations. We really liked the video at the Buffalo Nations video tour about the 1960 world journey undertaken by 88 year old Chief Walking Buffalo, who travelled to meet the indigenous peoples of Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Uganda. We also visited Banff Vintage store and bought some superb hiking pants for $8; check it out for your recycled fashion needs.
Due to COVID the Cave and Basin historic site was closed, but we did have a walk around the grounds.
Radium Hot Springs
The springs were shut due to COVID 🙁 so we completed a local hike instead 🙂 Great change of scenery, felt like a Mediterranean climate on that particularly sunny day.
We had hoped to stop off at various hot springs when passing through the Kootenay park, but unfortunately due to COVID, they were shut. And alternative sites were too far off the main road for us to travel on our itinerary. We downloaded an audio book guide tour from Parks Canada which gave us GPS-zone triggered audio sections explaining about the areas we were passing through. Great info about the forest fires that scarred the landscape you drive through.
Pass-through town for us as we were keen to get to Nelson. Relatively industrial and American compared to other places we’d passed through. Good transport museum if you have time.
Nelson had been much hyped before we arrived, but did live up to expectation, unlike the weather. We had a sunny and a rainy day, and manage to cram most of our downtown wandering into the sunny day thankfully. Lots of funky shops and an artsy vibe, as we’d been told about. Good hikes on the north shore up Pulpit rock. Saw our first wild black bear, thankfully before it saw us!
Wonderful cultural tour at The Desert Cultural Centre as well as wine tasting at Moon Curser and a tour at Maverick vineyard. Find a vineyard that does a full vineyard tour, it’s much more interesting than just tasting!
EV tips for the trip
Things we learnt about using an EV for long trips:
- Plan your rough route and charging station locations
Like any roadtrip you need to have a rough idea of where you’re going and your route. With EVs its good to have an idea of which type of chargers are available (slow/fast) and where they are. That way you can plan if you’re going to need to hang around in town while the car charges, or whether you need to stop off en route along a highway.
- Always have one station in reserve
Use the apps to locate your charging stations, but give yourself at least one additional station in reserve before you must charge.
- Bring a charging cable
Some of the motels and hotels we stayed at had outlets in the car park to charge your EV with. We couldn’t take advantage of this as Modo’s EVs don’t come with a charging cable. If we had a charging cable we could have exploited overnight charging where we stayed, rather than having to take time out of our day to charge on a fast-charger.
- Check if the hotel has car park charging
If you have time to make the enquiry, check if your hotel or motel has outlet charging in the car park. Sometimes it’s no hassle to charge in town – you can drive a few minutes from your residence to the charge location, plug in, and go for a walk to check out the town, have dinner etc. Other times perhaps it’s a pain as there’s nothing that close to the charging station and someone’s just got on the charger. Mostly it’s the former, but a charger at the hotel saves the risk.
- EVs are super-satisfying on big hills
Any vehicle’s energy consumption will increase if you drive up a hill at the same speed as you drive along a flat road. With an internal combustion engine vehicle, you’ll spend a lot of fuel on the up-hill section and can’t reclaim any of that spent fuel on the down-hill section. Whereas with an electric vehicle with regenerative braking, you’ll reclaim a lot of the energy you used on the up-hill section when driving the down0hill section. When going down some long hills we found that the Kona’s display tops out at +10.23km!
Video for our Canadian Rockies road trip (in an electric car!)
Here’s the brief video for our Canadian Rockies road trip in an electric car!
Shout outs to:
- Alpine Club Canada: https://adventures.alpineclubofcanada.ca/web/
- Royalty free music: https://www.bensound.com/royalty-free-music
- Modo: if you found the article interesting or helpful, and are a BC local tickled by Modo, please consider signing up with our Modo referral code REF28KSS0GB Get to Modo here.